In the world of digital photography how long your battery lasts is a big issue. Whereas old school film cameras tended to use easily replaceable standard size batteries, digital cameras tend to have their own, proprietary rechargeable batteries which, while they tend to last a long time, are tricky to quickly replace while out and about. Digital cameras also suck battery life much more quickly than their elder film brethren, simply because they have so many more electrical parts to manage – preview screens, storing to memory cards and giving you all those amazing face focusing functions. So how do you ensure you get the most shots out of your battery when out and about?
Basic Battery Tips
- Make sure your battery (or batteries) are fully charged before you step out for the day’s shooting. Caveat: over-charging batteries can damage their shelf-life, so follow your camera manufacturer’s advice and in general don’t charge batteries overnight if you can avoid it.
- Minimize the use of flash: Flash photography sucks your batteries dry in no time at all. So unless you have an off camera flash with external batteries try and work more with the ambient light sources. Not only will you save battery but you may also get some more interesting, less flat photos.
- Don’t preview photos unless you have to make sure you got an angle. If possible turn off your screen and use the viewfinder.
- Repeated and regular previewing will drain your battery, whether due to you wanting to see whether you captured an angle or because your friends want to see what you took. A word of caution: often friends will be put out if you don’t let them see the photo, so if you must show them make sure you show everyone at the same time.
- Deleting photos drains battery: Deleting a photo takes battery energy firstly because you have to preview it on the screen, and secondly because you have to do the memory card action of the delete. So unless you have to free up space, avoid deleting photos.
- Turn off your ‘after shot’ preview, or reduce the length of time it shows. Often you can choose between 1 second up to 10 second post-shot previews in your camera settings.
- Minimize ‘half press’ pre-focus of a shot
- Turn down your camera screen’s brightness: It’s a simple trick and can really extend your battery’s life, especially if you have to compose your shot using the camera screen.
- Take at least one spare battery… Even if it’s an older, semi-dead battery, that extra bit of charge can be a life saver at the end of the day when someone does something interesting.
Advanced Battery Tips
- Buy a solar charger, or have an in-car charger if near your car: On a long day or trip away from a power source alternate charging technologies are indispensable.
- Keep your batteries warm: Batteries work best at normal room temperature, so shooting outside in the cold will not only tire you rapidly, but will also reduce the chemical energy available in your camera and hence its usable life. If you have multiple batteries keep swapping them round and keep one in your trouser pocket near your body warmth (making sure to keep contacts covered and away from keys/change!). Otherwise try and keep your camera inside your coat while not taking photos. See Using your Camera in Cold Weather.
- Turn off continuous focus! Unless you are shooting fast moving sports shots or wildlife it’s mostly unnecessary and, again, sucks battery. You can normally tell continual focus is on as you’ll hear the camera lens focus motor going repeatedly.
- Minimise zoom: zooming in and out to get a shot means you’re using a mechanical (ie, battery hungry) device a lot. Try moving around to get a different angle instead. Or if you need to take a lot of shots at a distance keep your lens zoomed.
- Buy a new spare battery: Spare batteries are your friends. Just make sure you keep switching round your main/spare batteries to ensure they stay charge and health. But more on that later.
Hopefully some of these tips help you get a bit more usage from your camera, as long as you don’t run out of space on your memory card of course! Feel free to post comments below with any more tips you’ve found over the years.